If you’re like me, you have a growing to-do list filled with big ideas to accomplish. Yet day after day, life gets in the way and our passion projects falls by the wayside.
We make excuses like “I’ll do it tomorrow” or “I’m not in the mindset right now”, waiting for the perfect moment of inspiration to suddenly strike. The funny thing is that “perfect moment” doesn’t actually exist.
Maybe you don’t know how to start. Or maybe you’re afraid of failing. Whatever is holding you back, acknowledging and diffusing resistance is the first step to ending procrastination.
To help you with this process, here are 5 productivity hacks to kick your motivation into high gear:
1. Pick One Goal
If you try to do everything, you’ll end up doing nothing. Taking on too much at once dilutes energy and focus, meaning you can’t bring your best self to any task. If you’re currently working on two or more goals, cut it down to one. I know it’s hard, but by picking a single, concrete goal you’re setting yourself up for the best chance of success.
2. Identify Exactly What’s Stopping You
When you try to get started on your project, what stops you? For one week, document the reasons why you avoid getting started. By playing the observer, you’ll tackle excuses blocking you and reveal opportunities to change in productive ways. Perhaps there’s a skill you need to learn in order to move forward. Or if you’re struggling with feeling tired when you sit down to work, you could try eating a snack or showering beforehand to wake up.
3. Get the Small Stuff Off Your Plate
It’s difficult to focus on a dream project when you’re inundated with emails and other requests. To create breathing room, try the “two-minute rule.” If something can be done in two minutes or less, do it now instead of putting it off. An amazing sense of accomplish can be created by scratching off quick tasks like making phone calls or answering emails of your list.
4. Get Off of Facebook
Want to sustain your motivation? Stop allowing yourself to get distracted! Every time you get a new message or notification, you lose focus and momentum. Turn off notifications from social media, your calendar, and email clients. Silence your cell phone. If you’re really daring, try disabling Wifi before diving into a big project.
5. Work in Short Bursts
How many times have you said: “I’ll spend all [morning/afternoon] working on this,” only to find yourself distracted and disappointed in the end? The human brain has a limited capacity for intense concentration, which taps out around 20-40 minutes, so make the most of your biology by working in short bursts.
Grab a timer (do not use your phone—too easy to get distracted!) and set it for 15-20 minutes. Work non-stop until time runs out, then give yourself a 5 minutes break.
Walk around, do some quick stretches, and repeat. Pretty soon you’ll have made major headway.
Melody Wilding is a coach and licensed social worker who helps ambitious high-achievers manage the emotional aspects of having a successful career. She is a TEDx speaker and teaches Human Behavior at Hunter College in NYC. Get her free guide to change thoughts that limit your success at melodywilding.com. A verion of this article first appeared on Inc.com.